Saturday, 2 July 2016
Tseries Night Race T60.
The T60 Challenge took place on 25/06/2016 at 8.00pm. It is a night adventure race that sees entrants having to navigate their way from Radley in Oxfordshire all the way to Kemble and the stone marker that denotes the Source of the River Thames. 3 Check Points with only water makes this a race of self-sufficiency. Water sources at locks along the way can be found. The race is organized and run under the name of T-Series with the race director being Shane Benzies. This is a good value event and well organized. At a £1.00 a mile and an all day work shop thrown in I really rate this event.
I travelled up from Brighton and arrived 2 hours beforehand, as I got off the train I met Javed Bhatti and Tom Garrod. We had a short walk to the race start situated at The Bowyer Arms in Radley. It was conveniently situated right next to the railway station. We settled in had a coffee and chatted and prepared for the race. Registration was smooth and once I collected my race number and GPs tracker I had my mandatory kit checked. I had kept my kit light and purposeful for any eventuality. My food was Denver rice cakes, gels and shot blocks. Race brief was fairly straight forward. Shane said this race was as close as you could get to an Adventure race due to the self- sufficient nature of it.
A small crowd had gathered as we set off. The weather was good. I was not far behind the lead pack as we made our way to the first check point at 14.5 miles situated at Pinkhill lock. This part of the course was very runnable and with it still being light, quite nice. I was familiar with this section from the end of TP100 and it was a nice feeling to run past the field where the TP100 race ends. There was a little mud and stinging nettles on this section but not bad, we passed through Oxford and back onto the canal path. I arrived at Pinkhill Lock 5 minutes ahead of time at 22.20, I quickly topped up on my water and walked along the road and took some food on board. It was dark now so navigation became difficult. It was a cool night.
The next check point was situated at Swan Hotel Bampton 16.5 miles at mile 31. The course from here changed and I started to understand why when looking at previous results there were no super speedy times. With the time of the year and the recent rainfall we had been having the grass was long and the stinging nettles were abundant. There was lots of water and my feet soon became wet and stayed like it for the rest of the race. This made the going slower and harder as the grass was mainly knee high or had fallen over with the weight of the rain. I was enjoying this and moving as efficiently as possible. I was keeping up with a few guys that had gps devices to navigate. I had left it too late to load the GPX onto my watch. This had been my downfall on this race, trying to use a Harveys map that has little detail was a mistake. I can work with the OS maps and navigate pretty well.
I settled into a steady rhythm for the night switching between running and walking when needed as dictated by the terrain. Night running is my thing. It became deeply meditative at one point. Focused on my pursuit to do well, the noise of people running through overgrown terrain drew me into a never place where the mild discomforts of the environment had no consequence. I was happy and enjoying myself and if I had more confidence in my navigation I would have been pushing ahead.
I turned my ankle a couple of times here, but I was not worried. I have found wearing compression socks will help with this and keep my ankles well supported. There were a few wrong turnings at some points and I did spend time on my own, navigation was fairly easy and well signposted at this point. I found myself around 30 miles starting to feel a little despondent and tired due to being off target, it was coming up for 2.25 am I had been running for nearly 6 1/2 hrs. I soon turned this around though and decided to just carry on enjoying myself. I arrived at CP 2 in good spirits. Time 2.27 am. I topped up with water and thanked the volunteers for sitting out in the cold. I walked over a bridge and found a nice easy pace to run at.
The next CP was 13 miles away at mile 44! I believe at some point on this part of the route is where we met the jungle! I am not sure as I was just oblivious to be honest. I was moving well and just focused, I was having a good race. I know at this point was when a game of cat and mouse developed as it can in the later stages of the race. I had this going on with 3 – 4 people. I caught up with Javed, he was doing well and we had a quick chat in passing, the sun was starting to rise and there were some beautiful sights. I kept moving and got lost at one point and got taken over, then I over took again once I had got more water on board from a tap at a lock. As the sun rose I started to find my strong and came running in to the 3rd and last check point mile 44, in 9.29 mins. It was 5.29 in the morning. I had not even thought about what position I was in. A marshall told me I was doing well and in 7th place. The next person in front of me had left 15 minutes ago. There was tea on the go here, but I just topped up with water and steamed out knowing I had 16 miles to go and that those in front would possibly be tiring and all I needed to do was keep pushing!
The terrain here was hard and uneven with reed beds and water. My feet were in good nick. I kept eating little and often, I was running out of food, I had kept it simple and little variety. At some point from here fatigue started to set in with my mind. The body was willing still. I was making simple mistakes of missing markers on gate posts showing which way to go. I was too befuddled at times to make sense of the map and without my glasses it was harder. I just stood at times, then remembered to run back to the last point where I was not lost. A lot of the time I was looking at the right path to go down but just did not trust that. At one point I found myself having run back on myself for half a mile, meeting Javed saying “what are you doing!“ I was getting low and this was wasting so much time. I tried not to feed in to the despondency this brought and kept running each time I was back on track. I was running out of water fast and had just less than 10 miles to go.
Luckily I found a tap and filled my bottles again. I caught up with Javed and we laughed. As I passed I said “I will catch up with you later.“ The last major getting lost incident saw me lose the path completely. I came to a stream and the path looked like it was on the other side. I just thought this was a cruel trick right at the end! I waded into the stream, waist deep in cold water, which in fact felt great. The path just led me into someone’s back garden! I apologised. I was about ½ mile off course with the end in sight. I just trudged it out, with Javed finding me a mile from the finish in a field scratching my head! I was on the right path. I just followed behind at this point. The getting lost had taken its toll and I was worn out.
It was great to finish, it was a decent challenge with the undergrowth, reeds and navigating making it hard. I really enjoyed the race and am looking at having a go at one of the other races offered on the T-Series. I came in 11th with a time of 14.36, I had added just under 4 miles on my way. The last 16 miles took me just over 5 hours. Despite that it was a good race. We got fed and well looked after at the end. It was good to sit around at the end and just chat with the other runners.